It feels like I’ve spent an upsettingly large portion of my life trying to convince people to take movies seriously. Hearing movies referred to as “content” will never not be annoying. Just as irritating is when I’m talking film with a normie and they use some variation of the phrase, “Why do you care about it so much? It’s just a movie. It doesn’t really matter.” Gentle reader, I submit to you that it does, and that’s why we’ll take a moment to talk about the cannon roll. 

You’ve undoubtedly seen moments in movies where a car flips over multiple times. That’s a stunt called a cannon roll, and it’s my understanding that it was invented by the legendary stunt professional Hal Needham on the John Wayne movie McQ. Back in the day, a stunt performer would drive a vehicle off a specialized ramp in order to achieve the roll. Now, the stunt vehicle is literally equipped with a cannon. It’s mounted underneath the vehicle, and after placement, angle, and speed are calculated ahead of time, the stunt performer deploys the cannon while driving.

As you might imagine, the cannon roll is a) insanely dangerous and b) entirely possible to achieve when experienced stunt professionals are called in. Recently, the Guinness World Record for the most number of cannon rolls in a movie was broken by stunt performer Logan Holladay. He genuinely risked his life to achieve 8.5 cannon rolls during the filming of The Fall Guy, a movie that’s both ridiculously entertaining and a love letter to stunt professionals.

Colt Seavers (Ryan Gosling) is one of the best stunt performers in the business. It helps that he’s a consummate professional and a genuinely nice guy. Those are big reasons why he’s in a relationship with Jody Moreno (Emily Blunt), a skilled camera operator who’s angling for a chance to level up to directing. Colt is also the stunt double for Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), one of those action movie stars who brags about how he does all his own stunts. 

During a shoot, something goes horribly wrong. Colt is seriously injured. As best as he can figure, it was all his fault. He walks away from stunts, from Jody, from everything. His new life involves parking cars for a Mexican restaurant, but at least he gets all the burritos he can eat. 

Eighteen months later, Colt gets a phone call from Gail Meyer (Hannah Waddingham). She’s a high-powered producer who’s in the Tom Ryder business, and she begs/cajoles Colt to come to Sydney, Australia. It’s there that Jody is making her directorial debut, a massive sci-fi epic that naturally stars Ryder. 

Since the burrito business isn’t exactly booming, Colt hops on a plane. Very quickly he discovers a few problems. The first is that nobody told Jody he’d be working on her movie, and she’s less than thrilled by that. The second is that Ryder has inconveniently vanished, and Gail begs/cajoles Colt to find the missing star. From there, stunt-related shenanigans ensue.

The majority of blockbusters these days come in two flavors. They’re either heavily franchise-dependent, much like the MCU, or they’re very, very serious, much like Dune and the work of a certain Zack Snyder. There’s something to be said for a professionally made movie that exists primarily to be fun. The only thing you need to understand about The Fall Guy ahead of time is that it’s unapologetically and joyously fun. A big reason for that is the stunt artistry on display.

I haven’t been the world’s biggest fan of some of the films directed by David Leitch.* It doesn’t matter, because as a former stunt performer and coordinator, as well as the co-director of John Wick, he’s helped redirect focus back on the efforts of stunt professionals. Every film he’s made has had an emphasis on practical stunt work, and it feels like he’s been building up to The Fall Guy. On display is some of the best stunt work I’ve seen in years, with explosions, an extremely cool fight set in a rotating dumpster, people thrown through windows, and the aforementioned cannon roll. Leitch is celebrating not only the skill and bravery of the film industry’s stunt professionals, but also how awesome their work is. That enthusiasm comes through in the film’s tone, which is light and buoyant. 

The screenplay by Drew Pearce bounces between comedy, action, romance, and mystery, not unlike the 1980s television series that the film is based on. On the one hand, Pearce’s script features vivid and likable characters that are a joy to hang out with. We like Colt, Jody, the beclowned action star Ryder, virtually everybody. On the other hand, the mystery that Colt is investigating doesn’t amount to much. When the reveal hit, I thought to myself, “Oh…okay.” But if I’m being honest with you, I was having too much fun to care.

Another big reason for the cinematic endorphin rush is the weaponized charisma of the cast, particularly Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt. Gosling has mentioned that he’s moving away from darker roles to protect both his mental health and his relationship with his family. I’m more than okay with that. As good as his early work is in films like The Believer and Drive, I’m a fan of the looser and sillier Gosling. As Colt, he’s a stone-cold professional who’s game to be repeatedly lit on fire, but one glance from Jody turns him to marshmallow. Blunt is just as engaging as Gosling, which is why it’s a little disappointing that after the excellent first half of the film, she’s a bit sidelined in the back half. I would have liked more time with the two of them doing stuff together. They’re supported nicely by Stephanie Hsu and Winston Duke. While I wished that both of these talented performers had more to do, I don’t want a three hour Fall Guy movie any more than you do.

If the Academy Awards can honor screenwriting, makeup and hairstyling, and production design, there’s literally no reason why they can’t honor stunt professionals.** I’m not holding my breath for that to change anytime soon. In the meantime, the best way to support the craft on display is to see The Fall Guy. Come for a car flipping over eight and a half times, stay for a blockbuster that’s precision-engineered to show you a good time.


*Looking at you, Hobbs and Shaw. Looking at you as well, Bullet Train. 

**The irony is that a lot of Hollywood liberals are stuck in the past just as firmly as the most hardcore conservatives. 

Tim has been alarmingly enthusiastic about movies ever since childhood. He grew up in Boulder and, foolishly, left Colorado to study Communications in Washington State. Making matters worse, he moved to Connecticut after meeting his too-good-for-him wife. Drawn by the Rockies and a mild climate, he triumphantly returned and settled down back in Boulder County. He's written numerous screenplays, loves hiking, and embarrassed himself in front of Samuel L. Jackson. True story.